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Sep 6, 2010

Irons and Doilies and Bernstein, Oh, My!

One of the biggest unexpected benefits of teaching myself to sew has been learning how to iron.  Before June, 2009, I didn't even own an iron!

My mother didn't iron much when we were kids -- those were the days of wash and wear -- and as an adult, the only things I might have ironed myself, like a dress shirt, I usually sent out to the laundry.

Fast forward to now:  I love to iron and I do it almost daily. 

My first "serious" iron -- meaning one I bought with the intention of ironing my sewing projects, is a Black & Decker Digital Advantage D2030.

The only reason I chose it was because, among all the irons for sale on Amazon, this one had the most positive feedback -- more than a thousand happy ironers!  For some reason this iron is no longer available, and the subsequent B&D models are not very popular.

I love this iron.  It's easy to use and not temperamental in the least.

But with my interest in vintage sewing machines has come a curiosity about vintage irons.  As I've researched my upcoming suit project, I've been reading more about pressing techniques, and it sounds like the heavier the iron, the better the results.  My Black & Decker is a bit of a lightweight.

So yesterday on eBay I purchased this:

It's a six-pound vintage General Electric -- working, apparently, with the cord in good condition -- and I can't wait to give it a try.  It is not a steam iron, so I'll have to keep a spray bottle of water handy.  This looks like a serious iron to me.  If nothing else, it will give me a good upper body workout.  It cost about $15, shipping included. 

This is how I envision myself.  Don't I look serious?

On a somewhat related note, look what I picked up yesterday at the flea market to dress up my treadle when she's not in use -- two for $1!

I've never been much of a fan of vintage linens, but now that I have this 1920 treadle in the living room, I may be changing my mind.  Does anything look prettier than that?  To think people used to make these by hand!  Now all I need is a dish of peppermint candies and I will be an actual grandmother.

So, my friends, on this Labor Day (oh, the irony --  Eek!  Bad pun!!) I ask you:

What do you iron with? How did you make you choice?  What are your must-haves with regard to irons?

Have you ever made your own ironing board cover?  (Sunni (The Cupcake Goddess) has a great tutorial and do you think I ever used it?)

Always so much to learn...

Hey,  check out the lovely sewing machines in this number!

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Still not sewing, eh? :-) Gravity feed all the way, baby. This is mine. It replaced an 18 year old Sussman (discontinued) that I couldn't get parts for. Holds a gallon of water and can run all day/night without effort.

  2. Wow. Serious ironing party at Meredith's!

  3. Gravity Feed for me too...nothing flattens better!

  4. Arghhh. The interwebs just ate my comment. TWICE. Trying again ...

    I have a plain ol' Rowenta. Bought it because of it's extra long cord. Irons, even vintage, don't thrill me like sewing machines so I have no desire for gravity feed or anything else. I have a sink just steps away so filling the tank isn't a problem, and I think I'd rather do that anyway than have all the hang-y stuff that goes with gravity feed.

    Yes, I've made an ironing board cover:

  5. And Arghhh again. I know a possessive "its" doesn't have an apostrophe. The OCD in me had to say this.

    And what up with your comments today. I keep getting a 503 Error. I think it's (that one does have an apostrophe!) whatever widget thingie you're using to verify comments.

  6. Debbie, I don't verify comments, though I do grade them for grammar.

  7. Then I'd fail miserably today. But your comments are verified, and in a little box thing that comes up after one submits a comment and that is different from most other Blogger blogs. Hmmm.

  8. I also have a Rowenta with a longer front nose (is that what you call it?) which I love. It is great for getting to hard-to-reach areas of projects. It is one thing I wish I had with me (it did not make the cut for Rome), especially when I went to go iron my dress for Saturday night and it spilled water all down the front. Grrrrr.

    I never thought of a vintage does look heavy. Make sure you change arms so that you don't end up looking like Popeye ;)

  9. OK, I did have a verification setting activated, which I have now removed.

    Good point about the arms, Maggie!

  10. Whew! Now that we have that resolved, I forgot to say that I was watching WSS a few weeks ago and noted this scene too. One of my favorite show movies, BTW. Right up there with my other favs - Gigi and My Fair Lady.

    Have a great Labor Day, grandma. ;-)

  11. I also started ironing because I started sewing seriously. I have a simple Tefal steam iron now and used to have a Philips steam iron. I bought the Tefal because it has steam hole very close to the tip ( I thought that would be good for pressing seams) but it doesn't make much of a difference and the 'steam output' of the Philips was more reliable. I won't bother to look up their numbers. Both are modern irons and those brands keep making new versions with new names/numbers all the time. I wouldn't want to go back to a non-steam iron though.
    Oh, and I have made my own ironing board cover. In fact, I should re-do it soon.

  12. I use the Classic Iron from Black & Decker. It has a wonderful weight to it and flattens very nicely. It's also very affordable. I've had mine for about 15 years and it works just as well as the day I bought it.

    It looks like the new model has auto-off, which is probably safer, but I imagine would be annoying when sewing and pressing for several hours. Maybe it would be better to look on ebay or a yard sale for an older model.

  13. I actually had to buy a new iron for the first time this past summer. The new one is nice because it doesn't tend to randomly spot rust and calcium on my fabrics (I, too, iron mostly while sewing), however I'm pretty sure the old one heated up faster. Also the new one has an automatic shutoff, which seemed like a good idea until I realized it shuts off while you're in the middle of using it. :P

    I've never used a non-steam iron... it'll be interesting to hear how it works. My seven-year-old has used them and tells me she's very good at it (but then she generally enjoys ironing more than I do...)

  14. I made my own cover- it makes ironing more fun, because I actually like looking at it. Easy, instant gratification project. My iron is a cheapie from wal-mart. I do like the sew a seam-snip-iron process, so it might be worth buying a nicer one...

  15. I feel a little ashamed now that I know how much thought you put into your irons. This is how I pick mine: Does it have auto shut off becuase I always forget to turn it off? Does it have that stupid circular dial that's hard to turn in the event that do remember to turn it off? Swivel cord? because I like those. And, most important, price! It has to be cheap enough to not upset me when I need to throw it away because I dropped it on the floor again and now it leaks.

    Pretty scientific huh!

  16. I have the Black and Decker digital advantage, and it's really great for a modern iron. But discontinued? My heart is broken... and when this one dies I'll probably have to break down and buy a gravity feed.

    I had a Rowenta, and it had a faulty auto-shutoff and leaked water out the cord. I don't think their quality is what it used to be. I looked for a vintage iron for awhile, but vintage things that use electricity scare me (but somehow my old house wiring doesn't?)

  17. One of the great things about old appliances is that they can be rewired, the way old sewing machines can be. If you look at that photo of the vintage GE iron, you'll see that the plug (on the end that goes into the iron) has a screw; the unit can be opened and a new wire reattached -- I think.

  18. Hi, Peter,

    Just wrote a long comment that Google Chrome swallowed. In a nutshell:

    --I have an expensive Rowenta steam iron and ironing board and I'm happy with neither.

    I think gravity-fed irons with a vacuum board pedal to remove steam are the best.

    --It's hard to do tailoring without a good steam iron.

    --I don't see the point of making an ironing board cover, a canvas or muslin one is best. For an ironing "surface," I've read that they sell covers with scored surfaces that you can use to block material.

    --You may know this, but "ironing" is when you use the iron to remove wrinkles, "pressing" is when the iron is used in construction, to open seams, create tucks and pleats, etc.

  19. I have a B&D surge express that I think was a wedding present from someone who didn't know my domestic inabilities. That joker pretty much sat in the box until I started sewing, but I have a secret. I have a little tool that basically a bone folder (paper crafters will know what I mean). and I use that to press very small areas which happens plenty on children's garments. When I absolutely must iron, I have a mat I got at Joann's and I set that on my coffee table and do what I have to do. The big ironing board doesn't come out much.

  20. I've got a Rowenta steam generator and love it! That puppy will work for hours. My back up is a Black and Decker that's probably about 10 years old. I hardly ever use it because it doesn't hold enough water.

  21. I have a Rowenta and I love it. Got it on sale last year. BTW - you need to open a museum of sewing machines and related paraphernalia. Not only do you have a curated collection ready to go, you totally find the coolest things.

  22. From what the guys on the radio were saying on Friday, you don't use a spray bottle with that kind of iron. Apparently you need to sip a mouthful of water and then spit/spray it on the fabric. If you're going old school, you really need to go whole hog!

  23. I have a rubbish £5 effort from Argos (catalogue cheapo shoppe on every UK high street). I really need to get serious. Recommendations welcome.

  24. I'd just like to point out that all crocheted items are STILL made by hand, there isn't a machine that can do it yet.

    And if you REALLY want to enjoy your ironing, I bought my BFF a cover with a handsome gent on it and when you iron over his strategically-placed towel it disappears (also available with a bikini clad girl). My friend loves to iron now. Here is a similar one

  25. I use a top of the range Sunbeam steam iron, which was a gift from my mother in law so I know it was expensive! I think I want a non steam iron, though, so I don't get the hole marks. I also have a large press. It's great for fusing interfacing to larger pieces or several smaller ones at once. It takes a long time to heat up, so I usually wait until I have a few garments cut out in the sewing queue so I can do all the fusing at once. I never actually ironed anything with the press. I,too, have a collection of old doilies. I have a cut glass bowl that used to belong to a dressing table set that would look lovely on top of your machine. Did you have those in the US? They consist of a cut glass tray, a ring stand, a bowl with a lid (for powder - would have originally had a puff in it) and an open bowl. Girls often got them for 16th birthdays and events like that. Sometimes they came with a bone handled hairbrush and mirror. Incidentally, I used to work with a man who had been Leonard Bernstein's lover for a while.

  26. I love ironing and I have the irons to prove it. I have 2 steam irons and 5 old fashioned non steam irons, all of which I bought at garage sales. I love the non steam irons, they are the best when ironing or pressing 100% cotton or 100% linen, they get much hotter than the new irons do, so you do have to be careful not to scorch your fabric.

  27. Peter, you can get those age spots out of the vintage linens without damaging them with my oxyclean trick. It'll get them sparkling white without damaging the old fabric or color...

    Now back to the jacket to go with the DamnDress.

  28. Hi, Bratling what is the oxyclean trick. I hve some linens with rust marks, would this help.

    Peter, still not sewing???

    Gaviota in Alicante

  29. Hi Peter,
    Love ironing when I am sewing, but that's about it. (Except for ironing on interfacing, which is about as boring as watching paint dry.) Anyway, the iron I am using now is a Sunbeam Steam Master I bought several years ago for about $25. Nothing fancy, auto shut off which can be a pain. This iron has been used and abused and it still going strong, I keep waiting for it to crap out every time I turn it on. Have had Rowentas which I didn't like and wouldn't recommend. Have used those expensive irons at work and sewing classes, not sure they would be worth the money to me. I know that people who have them, love them.

  30. Grandma-
    I have a Rowena that I've had for 5 years or so. I love it. but I think the design must have been changed in the past few years, because my sewing friends that have new ones don't love them. (Esp the auto shut off kind.)

    I had the B&D classic before that & I loved it, too. I only gave it up because I bought the Rowenta.

    And on the doily front, I just took a class on weaving with a Rigid Heddle and wove a couple of lovely lace-like lamp mats. Talk about a candy dish backdrop... good thing I still have the footed one that my Gran kept her Andes Mints in.

  31. i'm a gravity feed iron type of girl. i want an iron to be heavy, hot hot hot, and steamy. i LOVE mine. i have made an ironing board cover, but now i use a Fitz Like A Glove cover and pad, it's fantastic.

  32. I have rowenta, made in germany, and it is excellent. apparently they have moved their manufacture to china, probably not as great. If you use the old iron you must learn the proper way to iron without steam. you sprinkle the clothes with water and roll up, and place in the refrigerator for a little while, then iron. This won't work with sewing, of course, but is great for laundry type ironing in the summer time.


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